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18 January 2006 to 27 December 2005
Hundred Reasons: Lullaby (from Shatterproof Is Not a Challenge) (1.7M mp3)  

First up in my morning-commute shuffle, and apparently exactly today's mood. I discovered Hundred Reasons in a tour listing when they were opening for Idlewild, and they have remained in my affection long after I've given up on most of the shouty bands I recognize as generally similar. I think, as with Jimmy Eat World (and as songs begin in shuffle I have more than once confused the two), there is some essential core of sadness that makes even the most bellowing moments plaintive instead of merely loud.  

There are demos of new stuff up on their site.
C1: Remove all four strings, wind four (or five) layers of ordinary plastic wrap around the fingerboard, and re-string. Theocracies are inevitably undone by meteorology.  

C5: Isolate this cellist stage left (see diagram), in a bidirectionally soundproof enclosure with visibility only towards the house. Performer should follow the score as normal, with timing cues from audience reaction. If you are sure of your own worth, you will be less reluctant to criticize others.  

C8: Adjust to Morat tuning (modern) in movements 2 and 5. Never mistake hope for authority.  

Va2: Performer should be contact-miked at the base of the throat (concealed under clothing if possible), and should whisper as indicated in the score. This channel should be mixed at the volume of the loudest single viola. America is not the only nation in which the market has failed God.  

Va3: Perform standing, hooded. Air is the element that does not dream of airlessness.  

1Vn2: Affix round mirror of 3" diameter to center rear of instrument body. The light is warmer here, but we feel tired and unsafe.  

1Vn9: Each time an audience member coughs, stand and announce the next number (counting down from 50). After zero is reached, stop playing and stand for the remainder of the piece. If you interrupt a story, you assume responsibility for its conclusion.  

2Vn3: Do not doubt yourself. You are born with wisdom, and lose it only through fear.  

2Vn6: Insert nine glass marbles, as large as will fit through sound holes. Do not allow other people's envy to become your beacon.  

2Vn7: Sit with bare feet in a tray of sand. Learn to say your name without speaking, without opening any doors.  

FH1 & 3: Where marked in score, turn to face each other and join mouths of horns together. Charity is a distraction.  

T2: Marching. Not forgetting the gift.  

X1: Satellite radio. If music is not a language, then neither is Dutch.  

X2: Manual typewriter (bell removed). Kind words are bought with foreign blood.  

X3: Mild regret. There is no excuse for independence, but sometimes the alternatives take longer than lives.  

X4: LG5275, ringers "Personal 2", "Personal 4" and "Young Cranes", volume "Medium High". The number should be listed in the program. Cities should be built by the children that will have to be born there.  

X5: Shoe horn, dry soil. White is both the color of dust and the weight of famine.  

Conductor: In addition to normal movements, a rook on an edge row or rank may turn at open corner squares and continue along the next rank or row. Circumnavigation is not why the Earth is round. "Round" is not what I mean, but math is the only real secret I have left.  

Composer: The gap between morality and ethics is best understood as compassion. In the truest portraits, the voice of the brush is not the paint but the canvas.  

Mezzanine right: Provide materials and instructions for paper airplanes to be thrown towards orchestra left. If you teach a baby to fly, she will leave the earth to us.  

Orchestra center: One hour before show time, soak each seat cushion in warm honey. Keep to yourself. The nights are long and dense with lies.  

Outer lobby: Line floor with pre-1986 magazine cigarette advertisements. Power is a metal, but forgiveness is a shape, patience is a hammer, and clarity is a vice.  

Ladies toilet: Scented towels, but no running water. It doesn't matter what other people learn.  

Front sidewalk: During intermission, oil and set alight. Unlike the sun, the moon must be invited, and sometimes we forget.  

Nearest seacoast: Speak quietly to the water when there is nothing left to say.  

Two weeks prior: Cancel, wait one hour, then retract the cancelation. It is good to grasp young that promises are made of skin.  

Afterwards: All dissent is interred in the syntax of its assumptions. Only by moving outside of politics, formally, can one accurately articulate the constraints of historical inertia. Sumerian music utilized four extra keys we now deny. It is possible to make paper out of water and salt, but governments are at best compromises between expedience and flight. They tell us that all the new planets are equally flawed. Climates without seasons breed corruption among well-meaning idolators as readily as larvae among new-fallen fruit. Attach hinges with black tape. That is no longer the lowest note once we've thought of another. There was a town here, but then you came and told us the story of how the stars were brought to you and you clothed them in orange silk and perfect poetry, and our children left to follow their souls and our parents left to follow our children and now there is no home here but the way the air shifts to stay behind us when we fall upon our palms and our fables and the marble rises towards what our tongues were before we sold them to you for a dream of silence and the tempo of sky.
Here is how I did on my three explicitly stated quantitative metrics for calendar 2005:  

Running  

I hit my distance goal of 1000 miles in early December, and even with an injury-constrained final month finished the year with 1052 miles. My average pace across all conditions and routes was 7:24/mile, beating my internal target of 7:30. I also wanted to be able to comfortably run 6:30/mile on 5-mile training runs, but I can't yet, and maybe won't ever. I can get under 7:00 without straining, but anything below 6:50 is hard, and 6:30 requires race intensity. I meant to enter a 5k this year and try to finish it in less than 20:00, but I never got around to it, and didn't really feel bad about that.  

Body Equilibrium  

My weight spent the year, as intended, within a couple pounds of 132. It's been there for two years, so I'm no longer really worried that there's anything tenuous about the state, but I still monitor it fairly closely. The degree of close scrutiny I applied to my bite-by-bite consumption in 2005 varied, but Bethany and my ongoing attention to our shared shopping/cooking/eating patterns is almost certainly more directly positive and ultimately sustainable than any rules applied at the point of chewing.  

Reading  

Hoping to get through 50 books in 2005 was easily the least realistic of my numeric impulses, and projections showed me missing it up until very late in the year, but after an epic transit of the complete Baroque Cycle I actually ended the year at 52 books and 18,232 pages. Both of these are ten-year personal highs, and more than double the woeful (reading-wise) 2002 and 2003 (which were attributable, oddly, to almost opposite trends elsewhere in my life). More significantly, in 2005 I actually read more than I bought (and was given), and so began, after many years of seemingly uncheckable increase, to decrease my backlog of books waiting unread on my shelves.  
 

These amounts of running and eating and reading all felt pretty good, so for 2006 I'm simply going to repeat all three goals, unaltered: run 1000 miles and maybe enter a couple races, gain or lose no weight, read 50 good books.The tempting thing to do with goals is always to increase them, but that's reliably at the expense of things that are harder to measure but more important to do.
Here are ten I feel different for having seen:  

1. Me and You and Everyone We Know
An intertwined miscellany of wounded adults and curious children try bedraggledly to break through their own and each others' patched-together shells. Undeniably precious, hyper-self-consciously eccentric, and to me unreasonably charming. Maybe the largest number of compellingly detailed characters ever packed into the least film time, and one of the rare movies in which even the characters with only one line usually get a good one.  

2. 3-Iron (Bin-jip, Korea, 2004)
Catch-and-release identity theft as the ultimate solipsistic performance-art. Ethereally understated, for long stretches enthrallingly wordless, and about as empathetic and complex a portrait of long-resigned and suddenly-fractured loneliness as film probably allows.  

3. Stay
A virtuoso weaving of the dream-logic associations of unraveling memory, and a case study in how few special effects you actually need if you know what people are really trying to remember or forget.  

4. Hana & Alice (Hana to Arisu, Japan, 2004)
Friendship, love and growing up are universal in aggregate, but unique in each subjective experience, and thus one of the most enduring things art can aspire to do is show us what it might be like to have been anyone else.  

5. Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai, Japan, 2004)
Four children, .04 parents, and no wishful magic.  

6. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Even more old-fashioned in comic dignity than in animation technique.  

7. A Very Long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiançailles, France, 2004)
Amelie in wartime.  

8. Millions
Spy Kids with cardboard boxes instead of spy toys, a bag of expiring money instead of a robot brain, and grown-ups with even fewer secret powers than the kids.  

9. Krama mig! (Sweden via Montreal World Film Festival, 2005)
Maybe mundane life in a small town is only interesting if it's somebody else's town, but most towns are somebody else's.  

10. Bright Future (Akarui mirai, Japan, 2003)
Debilitating nihilism, fluorescent jellyfish and fabulous pants.  
 

I expect to also remember Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland, Good Night and Good Luck, Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl's Moving Castle), Hotel Rwanda, Kung Fu Hustle and Super Size Me.
The short version:  

1. Kate Bush: Aerial & Tori Amos: The Beekeeper
2. Low: The Great Destroyer
3. Waltham: Waltham & Tommy heavenly6: Tommy heavenly6
4. Imogen Heap: Speak for Yourself
5. L'Arc~en~Ciel: AWAKE
6. Regina Spektor: Soviet Kitsch
7. Yokota Susumu: Symbol
8. Zapruder Point: It's Always the Quiet Ones & The Frames: Burn the Maps
9. Tullycraft: Disenchanted Hearts Unite
10. 50 Foot Wave: Golden Ocean  

The long version:  

The Best of 2005
"I fall in love to you", she sings, in one of the few easy Japanese/English false-cognate errors. Five out of six words are right, and I know exactly what she means, but we have spent these centuries inventing ways that anyone other's sincerities and truths, from even the most trivial distance, can always be safely invalidated.

Luna, putting the finishing touches on an early interpretation of a false sense of security.  


Moki, compiling entry 237 in his bouncingly expanding encyclopedia of whether each object in our house is best suited to hiding under, pouncing on or falling off of.  

Adopted 5 Jan 06, birthdays (celebrated) 5 Oct 05.  

I'll get their email accounts set up by the end of the day.  

[Later]  


I guess they're settling in OK.
i can't really blame my mail program for thinking that a message beginning "Dear Sirs, I am an Eglish beef farmer with a young nephew who plays the fiddle" was probably spam.
I'm just settling into public-transportation commuting again, and I just read The Tipping Point, which has a chapter on the application of the broken-window principle to the subway in New York. The original observation is that in an environment where windows get broken frequently and are not fixed promptly, people are ambiently encouraged to act as if order is likely to be unenforced and inapplicable in other ways, as well. This makes somewhat better sense phrased the other way around: in an environment where obvious attention is paid to the smallest details of physical maintenance, people also tend to take the formal and informal social rules more seriously. In New York a rigorous campaign against subway-car graffiti and fare-jumping ended up causing (it is theorized) a dramatic decline in all kinds of crime on the subway. I was also recently in petty-crime-free Tokyo, where a whole host of social patterns are different, but among other things the subways and trains are operated to obvious exacting standards.  

Thus I am hyper-aware of what seems like an increasingly out-of-control plague of disrepair on the MBTA. Equipment as simple and presumably componentized as turnstiles and card-readers breaks routinely and goes unapologetically unrepaired for weeks. Torn seats are treated with electrical tape. Stair treads wear through the rubber to metal, and then rust through the metal to dank holes. Dismantled escalators sit in oily piles surrounded by desultorily drooping perimeters of creased caution ribbon. Floors are coated with a layer of grime that turns into viscous, clinging ooze in the gray ground-water that leaks out of the walls under the slightest weather provocation. Misaligned train wheels screech and clatter. The next-destination PA systems are usually off, and at least a third of the time when they're on they're unintelligibly garbled or simply wrong. The Authority publishes an official bulletin itemizing all the stations whose elevators are not operating, and it's only a matter of time until somebody notices that it would be more efficient to reverse this and list the ones that are.  

To be fair, though, the MBTA is really in no worse shape than any other aspect of the public infrastructure in Boston. The streets are poorly maintained, and traffic flow is irrational, largely unmanaged and often systemically unmanageable. Only the largest highways and smallest side-streets are reliably labeled, making virtually any navigation process into frustratingly inevitable trial-and-error. A constant flow of crap and its packaging debris spews out of fast-food and donut shops into pasty, lumbering bodies and onto the crumbly sidewalks, and in the winter it melds with minimally displaced snow to form rancid heaps as if the sewers are extruding sores up through the city's skin. SUVs sprawl out of cramped spaces in unrealistically lined parking lots, and their drivers swerve right out of left lanes, and vice versa, without turning the head to which one hand is holding their cellphone. The city could barely be more ruthlessly segregated by a formal initiative, the Red Sox fairy-tale has surrendered to the Yankee dollar, the record stores are just waiting to die, and in the winter it's really too damn cold.  

So, OK, maybe it's my tipping point I'm really approaching. But if I'm losing this city, I'm getting plenty of help.
 

glenn's: gold and Gibeon meteorite
Beth's: gold and Damascus steel  

Made and modeled by Bethany Ericson, December 2005.  

Designed, mentored, assisted and photographed by Chris Ploof.  
 

Superheroes at work:  

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